fruitage of the spirit's journal

Expressions from the Heart

Hidden Scars

Hidden Scars by Julie McAllen

Is it wrong to dredge up the past? Is it slander to expose what others have done to hurt us?

On the surface, some would say it’s not the “Christian” thing to do. After all, are we not advised to turn the other cheek when someone slaps us? Aren’t we called to forgive the offense and bravely press on? What is accomplished by exposing someone else’s sin? Shouldn’t we protect their good reputation instead of airing out their dirty laundry? I confess there are times I will cover over my wounds in an effort to protect those who’ve sinned against me. It seems respectful and “Christian” to do so, but God took me below the surface and showed me it was in fact the opposite of following in the footsteps of Christ.

When Jesus visited his closest companions after his resurrection from the dead, he did not hide his wounds from them. In fact, he exposed the holes in his hands openly in order to prove to them who he was. In effect he was saying, “look at what the sins of others have done to me.” Was that slander? Was it unnecessary exposure for the sake of getting even? Not in the case of Jesus. How do I know? Because even as they were pounding his body with their sins, he forgave them. Jesus was not uncovering his scars in any effort to hold back forgiveness, for it was already granted. Forgiving, therefore, is not hiding our wounds. If Jesus had kept his hidden, his friends would’ve doubted his reality.

 “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” …. Then He said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.” (John 20:25, 27)

Jesus was known to his friends by the wounds he willingly exposed. In the most intimate relationships, everything is open and laid bare.

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. (Hebrews 4:12-13).

God uses his word to draw us closer to him, Jesus honored his closest friends by allowing them to touch his wounds (1 John 1:1). Are we willing to let God open our wounds? Do we let others come close enough to see our scars and admit to them, “this is what the world did to me?” And what is the motive if we do expose the scars we carry?

“This is where they took out the cancer,” a friend confides as she lifts her shirt. “A reminder of my DWI days,” another jokes as he explains his twisted limb. “My mommy gets mad sometimes,” a child is coaxed to admit when the bruises no longer pass for normal playground mishaps. Some wounds are easier to share than others. Some go undetected for years they’ve been so skillfully buried. “I keep having these nightmares,” she finally confides to a therapist. “I know it happened, but I don’t see the point in talking about it now,” another evades the topic. Sometimes we tell the wrong people who abuse our trust and it makes it hard to be intimate with anyone after that. And so we live with wounds that no one else is admitted to see or touch as we isolate and insulate ourselves from others. There are, after all, many ways to hide the scars. How beautiful that Jesus not only exposed his own wounds and invited his friends to touch them, but he was also willing to touch the imperfections of those around him; healing lepers, deaf ears, and blind eyes. Sometimes all we need to heal is to trust someone enough to see our scars.

God is saying, “it’s okay, show your scars.” Yet confronting those we love but have hurt us deeply is difficult. If love covers over a multitude of sins, why bring up their sins? Why not keep the scars they gave us hidden? What will happen if they’re shown the wounds they inflicted upon us? Has Jesus kept his hidden? When confronted with sin, the humble are left to deal with their shame and seek forgiveness in the interest of reconciling the relationship. The prideful, however, will claim they have not sinned and blame the one who confronted them. Our weakness may hold us back from such confrontation, but if Jesus trusts us enough to discover the effects of our sin, we should do likewise with those we love—regardless of the consequences. God was willing to reconcile all men at the cross, but not all men are willing to see their sin there. We do no one any favors by not giving them opportunity to acknowledge their sins against us either. We are instead, opening the way to express our forgiveness toward them and invite them to greater intimacy in a reconciled relationship.

When we touch the wounds of Jesus, we are not merely looking at what Roman soldiers did to him. If you believe your sins were forgiven because of the blood of Jesus Christ, then no doubt you’ve seen your own misgivings causing the holes in his hands and the gash in his side. It makes his words of forgiveness toward you even sweeter. He didn’t exclude you by hiding his wounds from your eyes, for it was by his Spirit you were drawn there to see your words and actions causing the pain he endured on the cross. As you sobbed at his feet, he lifted your head to look you in the eye and whisper, “your sins are forgiven.” This is the pattern of a healthy and intimate relationship set forth by our Creator, because no one is ready to meet God until they first acknowledge the effect of their sins upon him. Likewise, no one really knows the gift of another person until they see their scars, even if some of those scars were caused by you.

Keep yourself in God’s love, Julie

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December 22, 2011 Posted by | According to Scripture, Expressions | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Hand him over to Satan?

Hand him over to Satan? by Julie McAllen

You’ve heard the term “original sin” and know that it traces back to the disobedience in the garden. Sin changed the relationship between man and God, but even after the sin, God remained present in the lives of Adam and Eve. He did not cut them off completely. Rather, God disciplined them while continuing to be their provider by clothing them with garments of skin (Gen 3:9-21). Eve credited God for the birth of her first son acknowledging some form of relationship with the Creator of life (Gen 4:1). We also know God remained in their family life because their boys were bringing offerings to the Lord. God looked with favor upon Abel and administered counsel to Cain about the sin that was crouching at the door (Gen 4:3-7). He was active in their lives providing clothing, children, a place of worship, favor and counsel. And yet, we understand the original pair sinned.

David also sinned. He lusted after Bathsheba and when he discovered she was pregnant with his child, he sought to have her husband killed (2 Sam 11)! God’s prophet was sent to expose his sin. Though he committed adultery and murder, David’s heartfelt repentance elicited favor from God and he’s remembered among the faithful in Hebrews chapter eleven. David was forgiven his sin.

Is there any sin that God can not forgive?

Mark’s gospel brings our attention to Jesus’ words that ALL sins of men will be forgiven them. Yet right within the same passage he brings out a sin which can never be forgiven.

I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin. (Mark 3:28-29)

So if God is still present in the lives of sinners, and adultery and murder can be forgiven, but the sin against the Holy Spirit can never be forgiven, don’t  you wonder what exactly that means?

I come into contact with a lot of people who’ve been kicked out and shunned by their religion due to sins they’ve committed against God and/or sins against  their religion’s particular doctrine. Terms used by these  groups vary from excommunication, the ban, the shunning, or disfellowshiping,  but the results are that the person often wonders if they can ever be forgiven and if they’ve sinned against the Holy Spirit.

Inability to conform to a religion is not sinning against the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a person, not a religious group. In my own case, when I was disfellowshiped, I felt condemned by God because I was rejected by what was called “God’s spirit-directed organization.”  In my controlled mind I wondered if I was guilty of sinning against the Holy Spirit. In reality, the religion itself was a false god and the Holy Spirit was responsible for drawing me out of it. I had not sinned against the Holy Spirit, I was listening to Him lead me away from a deceptive religion. That authority had to be understood for what it was, so that I could stand alone before God and let Him be the judge of my life. But when a person is first expelled from a body they once trusted as teaching the correct interpretation of scripture, it’s a powerful burden to bear and my heart aches for them. They often go off into deep despair as family and congregation abandon them as a form of “godly punishment.”  This is a shame.

I penned a heart and the words “thank you” next to John 9:35 in my Bible where it reads “Jesus heard that they had thrown him out” concerning the case of the blind man who was kicked out of the synagogue for testifying to the healing he received from Jesus. Though he lost his family and his religion, Jesus heard about the ban and came to him alone.

But is excommunication from a valid Christian fellowship ever warranted when a person actually sins against God? And with what goal?

The passage that churches use in such drastic cases is found in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.

But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked man from among you.” (1 Cor 5:11-13)

Paul advised expelling a brother from the congregation who was sexually immoral with his father’s wife. The  New Testament makes clear that sexual immorality in the congregation is a sin against God and also one’s own body (1 Cor 6:18) A church body would be right to address such a case, yet Paul does not say they had, instead they were boasting in it.  Their pride wasn’t about that form of sin, it was their distorted understanding of God’s grace. No longer under law, they were saying in effect, “look he is not keeping the law and yet Jehovah is not sending any lightening bolts!” The new church was often corrected for this distorted view of changing the grace of God into a license for immorality (Jude 4). And given that this behavior was reported to Paul it must have been going on for a while without the man sensing any reason to repent and change his course of action.

But one might ask, “didn’t Jesus pay the price for this sin at the cross?” He forgave us while we were yet sinners (Ro 5:8). He paid for this man’s sexual indiscretions , so why was he expelled from the congregation? Where is grace? Where is forgiveness?

Consider this. If I was hired as a nurse I would be expected to do the duties of a nurse. If I showed up at the hospital every day and never cared for any patients yet expected to get a paycheck every week, would I deserve to be fired? Not only was I receiving a paycheck for no services rendered, but I was exploiting the trust of patients who expected to find a qualified nurse in the hospital. Losing that position and paycheck would be just the thing to help me assess my priorities. Likewise, if a person claims to follow the Lord and is enjoying the blessings of the Christian congregation but persists in a sin for which he refuses to repent and seek help, then really, he just decided not to do his job. He wanted the freedom and was granted it. Outside of the fellowship, he would be in a better position to assess his priorities. Christians still sin, after all, but when we sin, the Holy Spirit leads us to repentance (1 John 2:1-6). Apparently this man was not being led to repentance by either the Holy Spirit or the brothers in his midst. The real problem then, was not so much the naughty thing he did, but that he was no longer able to discern God’s correction.

So what did Paul advise to bring about repentance in this man?

When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, (1 Cor 5:4)

They assembled as a body in the presence of the Lord. That tells me they were united in prayer. I believe that prayer was not just for this man but also the error of this boastful congregation in not recognizing the seriousness of his sin.

hand this man over to Satan, (1 Cor 5:5)

In the presence of God, they handed the man over to the enemy. Why? It was their acknowledgment to God that they were aware that this man had already chosen the lordship of the king of sin. The man was already in Satan’s hands. They’ve finally called the sin a sin. How then can they continue boasting? The congregation could now be restored to the Spirit’s lead of repentance and consequent refreshment. Naming the sin is not always easy for us to do with our brothers is it? Think about the relationships in that congregation. Friends and family united in Christ. Maybe some were winking at the sin not wanting harm to come to this man who may have at one time been very strong in the Lord. But they must expel him and hand him over to Satan as Paul directs in his letter.

Now, what was the purpose?

so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord. (1 Cor 5:5)

Did you notice that? They are handing over this man to Satan, but do they consider him to be beyond recovery? NO! They did this so that HIS SPIRIT WOULD BE SAVED ON THE DAY OF THE LORD! His sinful nature was committing incest and would be destroyed, but his spirit was sealed when he accepted Jesus Christ as his savior. His spirit is pure because it is Christ’s spirit (Ro 8:9-11). His spirit would be saved on the day of the Lord. There’s a comfort in that grace, but certainly no reason to boast. As Paul said, they should be filled with grief. The reason is that if he continued to sin, he would not be useful as a cleansed vessel to do the will of God while on earth. What a loss. A body ought to grieve when it loses a member. He was also putting himself in danger of a worse sin, that of denying the Holy Spirit, if he persisted in blocking His voice. According to this, however, he had not reached the point of losing his salvation. The hope of the church was to allow the heavy hand of God to bring about a fearful expectation of judgment upon him so that he would recognize his sin and turn to the atonement made in his behalf through Christ’s shed blood. A person won’t seek forgiveness if they don’t know they are guilty. In his shame, he would be left to seek Christ. But if by God’s mercy he was led back to Christ as his righteousness and yet considered the sacrifice unworthy of his attention, there would be nothing left and he would be guilty of insulting and sinning against the Holy Spirit.

 26If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. 28Anyone who rejected the Law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Heb 10:26-31)

Excommunication is not always the answer but in the case of this man it was necessary. In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, it appears the man was repentant and they were instructed to reaffirm their love toward him (2 Cor 2:5-11).

As Christians, we sometimes lose our footing, but we are sealed. We were saved the moment we put our faith in Christ who died for our sins. All sins he died for. He died for our past sins, present sins and future sins. The price was paid in full. If you are not faithful, God remains faithful. He will hold on to you. Have you ever felt the heavy hand of God lead you to repentance? Don’t refuse Him, it’s a kindness. He is ready to forgive, but you have to come to Him and acknowledge the sin. The Holy Spirit’s role is to lead you there. However, if you let sin rule by deciding in favor of it by continually drowning out the voice of God and the servants He sends to correct your destructive course, you could end up in the dark, away from His light, away from His people like this expelled man or in the pig pit like the prodigal son. And what happened in that story? The faithful Father was running open-armed waiting for his son to come to his senses and return. God waits for sinners to repent. This expelled man didn’t lose his salvation, but while “out there” he missed an awful lot of blessings. And it is precisely that act of HANDING HIM OVER TO SATAN that drives a person to the conclusion that they had it better in the Father’s house. So the reason the wicked man was expelled from their midst was to allow him to wallow in his sin and hopefully come to his senses. I respect a fellowship that does not wink at wrong doing. Sin ought to be addressed, but God is much more merciful and ready to forgive than some religious organizations that claim to represent Him in their misuse of expelling members.

Keep yourself in God’s love, Julie

October 30, 2010 Posted by | According to Scripture, Expressions | , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

   

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